Oil prices have been persistently low for well over a year and a half now, but as the April 2016 World Economic Outlook will document, the widely anticipated “shot in the arm” for the global economy has yet to materialize. We argue that, paradoxically, global benefits from low prices will likely appear only after prices have recovered somewhat, and advanced economies have made more progress surmounting the current low interest rate environment.
When you drive over potholes on downtown streets, are forced to make large detours to cross rivers lacking bridges, and finally arrive to find no cell coverage, connections between the global infrastructure investment gap and your pension fund might not be the immediate thing that comes to mind. But it should, because:
- Huge pools of available assets: pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds and sovereign wealth funds sit on $100 trillion in assets. To compare: U.S. nominal GDP in the third quarter of last year was $18 trillion.
- Huge infrastructure investment gap: between $1 to 1.5 trillion per year worldwide.
Brent crude oil fell below $30 a barrel yesterday for the first time since 2004, which reminds us that commodity prices are a hot topic that impact everyone, everywhere, one way or another.
So we thought you might like to read a few of our recent blogs about what the !@#$% is going on, and why it matters for the global economy. (more…)
2015 was a bold year for blogs at the IMF. Boldness grows less common in the higher ranks, according to Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, but he couldn't be more wrong when it comes to these blogs: the list includes work by the IMF's former chief economist Olivier Blanchard and Vitor Gaspar, head of the Fiscal Affairs Department.
As a result of the oil price plunge, the major oil-exporting countries are facing budget deficits for the first time in years. The growth in the assets of their sovereign wealth funds, which were rising at a rapid rate until recently, is now slowing; some have started drawing on their buffers.
In the short run, this phenomenon is not cause for alarm. Most oil exporters have enough buffers to withstand a temporary drop in oil prices. But what will happen if low oil prices persist, and how will policymakers react?
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Countries rich in natural resources are often looked at with envy: they face few financial constraints and that should speed their development path. But the reality is less rosy. Countries with an abundance of natural resources—typically oil, gas or minerals—have, on average, performed less well than comparable non-resource rich countries.
That raises one of the perennial questions in economic policymaking. How to manage the economic and social challenges that stem from resource wealth? Or, to borrow the words of Professor Thorvaldur Gylfason (University of Iceland), how to prevent “nature’s bounty” from “becoming the curse of the common people”? (more…)